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Painful stairway fall comes during beach vacation: $2.25 million settlement

By: South Carolina Lawyers Weekly staff//October 16, 2023//

Painful stairway fall comes during beach vacation: $2.25 million settlement

By: South Carolina Lawyers Weekly staff//October 16, 2023//

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Action: Premises liability

Injuries alleged: Closed right pilon fracture, closed fracture of right tibia and fibula, closed left pilon fracture, and closed fracture of medial malleolus of left ankle.

Case name: Ruth Ann Mason and Michael Mason v. The Debordieu Co. of Pawleys Island d/b/a Peace Vacations, Brian A. Lemon and Shawna C. Lemon

Court/case no.: Georgetown County Court of Common Pleas / 2023-CP-22-00095

Demand: $2.25 million

Highest offer: $2.25 million

Amount: $2.25 million

Date: July 6, 2023

Most helpful expert: Bryan Durig, Ph. D

Attorneys: Christopher Kinon of Kinon & Boyer, Conway (for the plaintiff)


Ruth Ann Mason was on a vacation at Pawleys Island with a group of high school girlfriends, all celebrating their 65th birthdays. The house they rented was marketed, rented and managed by Peace Vacations. The group arrived Sept. 11, 2021. About 7 a.m. Sept. 12, 2021, she started to walk down the interior stairs leading to the carport and covered area under the beach house.

When she reached the landing on the interior stairs, she was unable to appreciate that there was a change in elevation or an additional step down. As a result, she fell, fracturing both legs.

She was immediately in pain and began screaming for help. One of Mason’s friends went to her aid, but when she attempted to reach Mason, she also fell at the exact location where Mason fell. The friend was not injured.

Plaintiff’s counsel argued the defendants, who are the homeowners and their management company, were aware of the hazardous conditions of the stairs because the management company marketed and maintained certain aspects of the home and the homeowners had traversed the steps numerous times. The latter was evidenced by the homeowners placing yellow warning tape on the stairs after the fall.

Plaintiff’s counsel argued the defendants have a duty to ensure that properties they market and rent are clear of dangerous conditions, and that the management company is in a better position to discover, notice and warn of hazardous conditions at the home.

The appearance of the steps and witness testimony show the area is a hazard, and the step where the plaintiff fell looks more like an intricate design than another step.

Regardless of the appearance of the steps, plaintiff’s counsel argued that the 2006 International Residential Code requires stair tread winders have a minimum tread depth of 6 inches. It was clear from photographs of the scene that the winder where the plaintiff fell would not meet the 6-inch threshold required by local building codes. •

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